Codependency Therapy Services: The term codependency was originally coined to describe the enabling partner of someone who was addicted to drugs or alcohol. While this can be an example of codependency, it’s not the whole story. Codependency is a broad term, one that is not located in the diagnostic and statistical manual, meaning you cannot get diagnosed with codependency. However, being codependent can seriously impact the quality of your life. People with codependent patterns often abandon themselves, overfunction in relationships, and discount their feelings and needs for the sake of another person, or to maintain a relationship. Because codependency is such a broad term, it can look different person to person.
The Codependent Adult
Codependent adults have trouble maintaining a consistent sense of self-esteem and self-love. They may find themselves in the position of needing to be in a relationship, and needing to save the relationship at all costs, even if it starts to seriously harm them. Codependent adults have a fear of being alone, which makes setting functional boundaries more challenging. A codependent adult may experience verbal abuse in a relationship that crosses their boundaries, but because the codependent adult needs the relationship to work out, they will accept the abuse and keep moving their boundary line until it’s unrecognizable. If boundaries become unrecognizable and dishonored over a period of time, the codependent adult further loses touch with themselves. This can be a vicious cycle that results in further deterioration of boundaries because the codependent adult has no solid ground of self to stand on. This tendency to abandon boundaries leaves codependent adults vulnerable to being abused by narcissists, who will attempt to further annihilate the codepedent’s boundaries and limits with very little empathy.
And due to the codependent patterning, it might even feel right to assume the needs of someone else are the same as the needs of themselves. Without healthy separation and individuation, the potential for the codependent adult to be used and abused, or to tolerate too much mistreatment perpetuates. Codependent adults find themselves in enmeshed relationships, where their partner’s moods and their own moods become indistinguishable. Not only are the moods of both partners indistinguishable, the codependent often assumes responsibility for the mood, demeanor and even the actions of their partners. This leaves the codependent over-functioning, without a strong sense of identity and without energy to take care of themselves.
Codependency can look like a relationship in which one person is over-functioning, and the other person under-functioning. This can be as extreme as someone who’s sober, working and functioning highly, caretaking their partner who is not working on their addiction problem, not seeking employment and lying on the couch all day. This over-functionality via one partner can actually cause the other person to get worse. This is where the idea of “enabling” comes from.
Codependent people often view themselves as the perpetual victims within their story-line, saying, “Can you believe all of the work he’s making me do while he sits at home all day and doesn’t contribute?” And, this can go on for years without intervention. The codependent partner may table their anger, denying their need for a healthier dynamic. And within the state of victimhood, they resist change or advice from friends and family. They believe they are powerless to another person’s behavior, when in fact, most of the time, they’re not. However, codependent patterns of thinking and behavior are some of the most difficult to break. Denial is often a commonly used defense for people with codependency issues, which can form a strong shield against the truth that their relationships may be abusive, one-sided or boundary-violating. Low self-esteem also chips away at the codependent person’s ability to self-advocate, convincing themselves (or being convinced) that their needs and boundaries aren’t worth advocating for. Chronic feelings of low self-esteem often have its roots in experiencing trauma or neglect in childhood.
People who are codependent suffer with feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. However, they also have the tendency to try and control things. It is from a sense of powerlessness and anxiety that people with codependency try to exert control, often over other people. This may result in people feeling repelled by those with codependency, because most people don’t like being controlled. As stated, codependency is a broad term, likely why it’s too difficult to “pin down” symptoms that would allow for it to be included in the diagnostic and statistical manual. However, we can discuss key components of codependency to gain insight into the condition.
Core Components of Codependency
Difficulty Setting Functional Boundaries
People with codependency struggle with setting boundaries and sticking to them. They might know they are being harmed by a situation, but feel powerless to assert themselves and make real change. They might change their boundaries and preferences to please another person, or “go with them” instead of listening to themselves and what they need. It might even be hard for the codependent person to identify what they need in the first place.
Difficulty Meeting Your Own Needs and Wants
Codependent people struggle to meet their own wants and needs. They might be super attuned to another’s needs, and strategize “fixing them” without doing the work needed to help themselves feel fulfilled. Codependent people are willing to prioritize another person’s development over their own. They are often keenly aware of other people’s energy, they might refer to themselves as “empaths”, but without first having boundaries and empathy for ourselves and what we need, we are vulnerable to abuse.
Struggles with Sense of Self
When we have a stable sense of who we are, we are more likely to have firm boundaries and clear relationships with others. Codependent people struggle with having a strong sense of self, which includes being in touch with values and feelings, and making choices based on what we hold true. Difficulties with having a firm sense of self can often emerge from traumatic experiences, and being raised in a chaotic, abusive or codependent household. A shaky sense of self makes it challenging to meet your own needs or put a stop to harmful behavior. It makes you vulnerable to abuse, like gaslighting and manipulation.
Tendency to Fantasize and/or Deny Reality
Denial is a big part of a codependent’s thought pattern. The tendency to deny the significance of “red flag” behavior in budding relationships is one big example. There may also be a denial of the severity of another person’s behavior and its impact on us. Denial is a defense mechanism, meaning that it’s meant to protect the psyche from information that feels too painful to accept and integrate. The fear of abandonment is such a primal fear that in order to prevent the feelings associated with abandonment, the codependent person will deny reality, because reality threatens the relationship itself. Codependent people may deny reality through focusing on the fantasized version of their partners, or “the potential” of how the relationship could be versus how it is.
How to Begin Healing
In order to begin healing from codependency, you need a qualified therapist on your side. Therapists at The Center for Growth are knowledgeable about codependency, love addiction and its origins. The path to healing provides individual relief from uncomfortable symptoms of codependency. Your therapist can also help you pick better partners, heal relationships and make peace with any past trauma that may have influenced the codependency that you’re suffering with.
The Path to Healing
Your therapist will help you learn how to set boundaries, and how to say no when you need to. Your therapist will help you differentiate between yourself and others, allowing you to recognize your boundaries, needs and preferences separate from another person’s. This can help you to start choosing to fulfill your own desires, and prioritize your development first. Your therapist will help you identify the signals that indicate when something doesn’t feel right to you, developing intuition and self-trust.
During the therapeutic process to treat codependency, self-discovery is paramount. Building a strong sense of self through self-knowledge, and understanding what makes you unique will allow you to hold onto your boundaries with more confidence and self-esteem. You will be less swayed by the opinions of others, and more inclined to look inside of yourself for your limits and values. Self-acceptance is a part of self-discovery, along with cultivating self-compassion.
In the process of healing, you will learn how to advocate for yourself. This takes practice, and helps to have the support of a therapist on your side. Assertive communication, asking for what you want and need (plug articles), and valuing yourself and your inner world to the same degree as you value others.
Exploration of Family of Origin Challenges
When healing through codependency it helps to know how you became codependent. This can shed light on your past and help you to know yourself better. This kind of exploration can be challenging, but it’s a vital part of the path of healing. Because codependency often originates from your family of origin, how they dealt with emotions, caring for others, and who was responsible for who, you may have learned that you are only valuable when you are helping others. Our therapists are trained to understand complex trauma and family of origin issues, and how they can lead to codependent thinking. The path of healing codependency involves both past and present exploration.
The Center for Growth offers unique treatment to assist those suffering with codependency. To heal from codependency, you need someone who understands what makes it unique and challenging.
For your convenience we have offices in 4 states and are able to work virtually with clients living in VA, PA, NJ, NM, FL and GA.
- Ocean City Therapy Office
360 West Ave, Floor 1, Ocean City, NJ 08226
- Mechanicsville Therapy Office
9044 Mann Drive, Mechanicsville Virginia, 23116
- Alpharetta Office
11720 Amber Park Drive, Suite 160, Alpharetta GA 30006
- Society Hill Therapy Office
233 S. 6th Street, C-33, Philadelphia PA 19106
- Art Museum / Fairmount Therapy Office
2401 Pennsylvania Ave, Suite 1a2, Philadelphia PA 19130
- Santa Fe Therapy Office, 2204 B Brothers Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87505
- Telemedicine: We have therapists who are licensed to work in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Virginia New Mexico and Pennsylvania
If you would like to schedule a therapy appointment, you are encouraged to look at our clinician's biographies and clinician's fees and schedule online. Each therapists phone number is listed on their home page or you can call 215-922-LOVE (5683) x 100 and speak with one of our intake specialists or to call (267) 324-9564.
Jennifer Foust, PhD, MS, LPC, MS, LPC, PHD